20 pilgrims killed in Saudi Arabia bus crash

 At least 20 pilgrims have been killed and 29 others injured in a bus crash in Saudi Arabia, local media report.

The bus was transport­ing the pilgrims to the Islamic holy city of Mecca on Monday when it hit a bridge in the south-western province of Asir, over­turned and caught fire.

Videos posted on social media showed the vehicle engulfed in flames. Authorities are still investigating the cause, but the newspaper, Okaz, said there was an issue with the brakes.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya said the victims were of different nationalities but that they included several Saudis.

They had reportedly been planning to undertake the lesser Muslim pilgrimage, or Umrah. It includes some of the rituals of the Hajj, but they are shortened and there are fewer of them.

The crash comes at the start of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which is a busy time for Umrah pilgrimages, and three months before two million people in Saudi Arabia arrive for the Hajj.

In 2019, 35 Arab and Asian expatri­ates were killed when a bus collided with another vehicle as they travelled from Medina to Mecca for the Umrah. Thir­ty-five foreign nationals have been killed and four others injured in a bus crash near the Muslim holy city of Medina in western Saudi Arabia.

The bus collided with a “heavy vehicle” in al-Akhal Centre at 19:00 (16:00 GMT) on Wednesday, state media said.

The passengers were expatriate Arabs and Asians reportedly travelling from Medi­na to Mecca for a pilgrimage.

Their nationalities are not known, but Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, said he was “anguished” by the news.

Prince Faisal bin Salman Al Saud, the Governor of Medina Province, also ex­pressed his condolences to the families of the deceased.

The four survivors of the crash have been taken to the al-Hamna Hospital in Medina, and the Saudi authorities have launched an investigation into the incident.

Photographs published by local media showed a double-decker bus ablaze on a road with all its windows blown out.

The Okaz newspaper reported that the passengers on the bus were undertaking the lesser Muslims pilgrimage, or Umrah. —BBC

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